Restoring the rosters: No. 18 – Oakland

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This is part of a series of articles examining what every team’s roster would look like if given only the players it originally signed. I’m compiling the rosters, ranking them and presenting them in a countdown from Nos. 30 to 1.
No. 30 – Cincinnati
No. 29 – Kansas City
No. 28 – San Diego
No. 27 – Milwaukee
No. 26 – Baltimore
No. 25 – Chicago (AL)
No. 24 – Chicago (NL)
No. 23 – Pittsburgh
No. 22 – Detroit
No. 21 – Tampa Bay
No. 20 – New York (NL)
No. 19 – Houston
The Moneyball draft didn’t spark a revolution, and the A’s just haven’t been all that successful at bringing in new talent this decade. That said, they don’t fare badly for a team that went eight straight years without a top-15 draft pick.
Rotation
Tim Hudson
Joe Blanton
Rich Harden
Dallas Braden
Barry Zito
Bullpen
Huston Street
Andrew Bailey
Kevin Gregg
Jared Burton
Santiago Casilla
Trevor Cahill
Vin Mazzaro
Four years ago, a rotation of Hudson, Zito, Mark Mulder, Harden and Jeremy Bonderman probably would have topped anything else these rankings have to offer. I’ve written off Mulder, though, and I don’t expect a whole lot from Bonderman going forward. At least Braden and Zito look like reliable enough fourth starters behind a quality trio, and Cahill remains one of the AL’s most promising young starters.
The bullpen has a nice one-two punch, and Gregg isn’t so bad as a third reliever. It’s just too bad the A’s didn’t come up with the money to sign their 40th-round pick from the Moneyball draft in 2002, one Jonathan Papelbon.
Lineup
1B Nick Swisher
LF Andre Ethier
SS Miguel Tejada
RF Ryan Ludwick
3B Mark Teahen
C Kurt Suzuki
DH Jason Giambi
2B Esteban German
CF Travis Buck
Bench
OF Eric Byrnes
INF Bobby Crosby
INF Cliff Pennington
C John Baker
Unfortunately, Oakland’s impressive catching factory does only so much good here. Besides Suzuki and Baker, the team has also produced Ramon Hernandez, Gerald Laird and Miguel Olivo.
Also considered for the team was Dan Johnson, who has a case for starting over Giambi. Sadly, Eric Chavez seems like a weaker bet than Teahen going forward, though he’s another who could have been picked over Giambi.
If you don’t like Swisher in the leadoff spot, you can slot German and his .357 career OBP there and move everyone else down a spot.
As one might expect, defense is something of an issue here, since the A’s haven’t been loading up on toolsy up-the-middle players. Pennington is a nice upgrade over German defensively and should start when Hudson is on the mound, but I still think German is the better player. Buck offers below average range in center, and Byrnes might be the better option during those rare occasions when he’s 100 percent. Byrnes would definitely play over Buck against lefties.
Summary
There won’t be much Billy Beane bashing here. From 2000-07, the highest pick the A’s had in the draft was 16th, which was compensation from the Red Sox in 2002 and was used to select Swisher. The next highest was 21st. They weren’t passing over potential superstars to take safer college players; they simply never had a shot at the best the draft had to offer. Should they forgone spending $20 million on Esteban Loaiza and used some of that cash to try to find the next Tejada in the Dominican Republic? Of course. But they did fairly well with what they had, and if they hadn’t been particularly hard hit with injuries, they’d rank higher here.

Joey Votto: “I tried to get fatter. I succeeded at that apparently.”

Andy Lyons/Getty Images
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We’ve poked fun often at the spring training trope of players showing up to camp in the “best shape of [their] life.” Reds first baseman Joey Votto has turned that entirely on its head. Talking about his offseason, the 2010 NL MVP said, “I tried to get fatter. I succeeded at that apparently. We did all the testing and I am fatter,” Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Votto, of course, wasn’t trying to say he’s not in shape; he was just using some of his trademark self-deprecating humor.

Votto did get serious when discussing the state of the rebuilding Reds. As Buchanan also reported, Votto said, “I think we’re starting to get to the point where people are starting to get tired of this stretch of ball. I think something needs to start changing and start going in a different direction. I’m going to do my part to help make that change.”

Votto, 34, is under contract with the Reds through at least 2023, so he still has plenty of incentive to help see the rebuild through. He has been nothing short of stellar over the last three seasons. This past season, he hit .320/.454/.578 with 36 home runs, 100 RBI, and 106 runs scored in 707 appearances across all 162 games. Votto led the majors in walks (134) and on-base percentage and led the National League in OPS (1.032).

Despite Votto’s presence, both FanGraphs and PECOTA are projecting the Reds to put up a 74-88 record. The club had a pretty quiet offseason, expecting to enter 2018 with largely the same roster as last year.